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Rostovtsev to write software to automate the process.The Dissernet group knew that an electronic synopsis of every doctoral thesis was posted online in Russia.
MOSCOW — By Russian standards, the few lines that Melania Trump used from Michelle Obama for her speech at the Republican National Convention this week would barely tip the plagiarism scale.
A parade of government ministers, members of Parliament, senior judges, medical doctors, academics and others in Russia hold advanced degrees seemingly based on purloined work.
A doctoral degree — common for members of Parliament, much like law degrees are for members of Congress in the United States — suddenly ranked with an imported car and a summer house in Italy as a must-have accessory for the newly rich.“Your friends can buy you a doctoral degree for your birthday,” quipped Ararat L.
Osipian, a scholar based in Ukraine who focused on academic corruption in the former Soviet Union for his doctorate from Vanderbilt University.
The person running this propaganda machine will be the new Minister of Culture, 41-year-old Vladimir Medinsky, who some Russian commentators have already dubbed the Russian Goebbels.
Medinsky, who is well spoken, smooth, and projects a professorial air, is certain to take a more activist role than his predecessor as Minister of Culture, Aleksander Avdeev, a former diplomat, who was expelled from France in 1983 for spying.(He denied it.)Dissernet started work in 2013 after a political appointee with a limited academic record was tapped to lead a prestigious mathematics school.Academics began poring over his history dissertation line by line, which inspired Mr.Parliament also passed a law that stretched the period of time allowed to challenge a thesis to 10 years from three, but included an assurance for its members — making all doctorates received before January 2011 off-limits.Though he was inaugurated only weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin already faces serious challenges to his administration.If the report is accurate, then the Kremlin is going to have to find new ways to contain the discontent, especially if the economy starts to decline because of the downturn in Europe and lower oil prices.Judging from a controversial cabinet appointment that Putin made last week, one way the Kremlin may try to combat growing opposition is to reinvigorate propaganda in the area of history—a traditional Soviet weapon.The software makes comparisons 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and a band of about 50 volunteers does the rest. Given that Russian organizations that try to play public watchdog are often shut down under the pretext of being foreign agents, Dissernet was established with a purposely low profile. While he cannot prove that it had any connection to his Dissernet work, the group had just published an analysis of a Moscow City Council member’s thesis.It has no staff, no central office and relies largely on crowd funding. There is an official method of challenging doctoral degrees in Russia, so even when the group publishes page-by-page analysis showing all the copied material, it is considered an allegation until the Ministry of Education and Science investigates the matter. Livanov, the education minister, has said that the group lacks the expertise needed to render judgments in so many fields.His defenders accused liberals of seeking to smear his reputation because of his critical view of the West.“I think that the whole fuss around theses is disgusting,” Mr. “It is usually people incapable of writing anything longer than 140 characters on Twitter who dabble and poke around in this.But they persistently look for a speck in their brother’s eye.”The fairly strict, centralized control over degrees in the Soviet system fell apart, like much else, in the 1990s.